“Find something you love to do so much that you’d do it for free and find a way to make it into a career.” — Anonymous
I don’t know who came up with that quote, but it changed my life. You see, I’ve always been an ambitious person, but the only thing I knew for sure was what I DIDN’T want to do. I didn’t want to be a corporate wage slave doing a job I didn’t like, for bosses I didn’t respect — so I could retire and start doing things that I wanted to do in 40 years.
Besides, I was utterly unsuited to scale the corporate ladder. I hate wearing suits, I’ve got an anti-authoritarian streak a mile wide, and I have an almost pathological inability to pay attention to useless tasks. That’s probably why I used to regularly fall asleep in meetings, even when I was sitting next to my boss (yes, really).
Then there was the big three-day-long shindig at work where all the managers got together off-site to have a corporate trainer do utterly pointless exercises that had almost nothing to do with what we did day in and day out. At the end of the session, the trainer went person to person and asked us to tell everybody what we thought about the training. Every last person talked about it like it was the single most wonderful experience of his life….except me. I told the truth, which was that it wasn’t very useful and we’d have probably been better off back in the office working. I actually got dinged for that months later in a performance review.
But, if I had to give you one story that sums up the corporate experience for me, it would be from a job I had earlier in my career. I was a peon hoping to make assistant manager and I came up with an innovative plan to make an extra $10,000 a year for the company. I jotted it down, handed it to my boss, it was implemented, and the firm made a lot of money. Later, after he passed me over for a promotion, he told me he was completely unimpressed with what I came up with because it was written in pencil.
On top of all that and perhaps most significantly, work just wasn’t “fun” for me. Of course, most people reading this are probably thinking, “Oh, so work wasn’t fun for you? Well, join the club, jackass. Work’s not fun for me either!” This is where I probably part with much of humanity because I viewed this as a problem. My thinking was that if I am going to spend 1/3 of my life for forty years engaged in an activity, I should enjoy it. Sure, this isn’t the way it works for most people, but I never bought the idea that I had to be “most people.”
So, I started thinking about what I like to do. Writing was at the top of the list and the Internet was just starting to take off. Unfortunately, there was very little evidence that anyone could make it as a professional political blogger when I created Right Wing News in 2001. Back then, to the best of my knowledge, Andrew Sullivan was the only political blogger making a living at it and he was already well known before he became a blogger. Meanwhile, ad sales were in a freefall. You see, the Internet was a very new market and when the economy took a downturn, the first thing people cut from their budgets was advertising on the web. Worse yet, the advertising model at that time was based on paying websites a set cost per thousand impressions; so when the market collapsed, it completely decimated the entire industry. There were stories floating around about ad networks stiffing websites on five and even six figure checks as they went out of business.
Still, that’s what I wanted to do and although I couldn’t figure out exactly how I would make it work, I essentially was an advocate of the Underpants Gnome philosophy of business — Step 1: Get visitors to my website. Step 2: ????????? Step 3: Profit!